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Alfa Romeo 4C Spider: A visceral experience

By Miles Downard

The Alfa Romeo 4C, first launched back in 2013, came at an odd time for the illustrious Italian automaker. The company was between projects as it were, with the 159 saloon having ceased production in 2011, while the Giulietta and MiTo hatchbacks were on the boil but not really seen as the future. So while that future was being planned, in the shape of the Giulia, the 4C arrived on scene to whet the appetite of Alfisti the world over.

And what it did

The 4C concept is one of which motoring enthusiasts dream – two door, lightweight, mid-engined, rear wheel drive. It’s a sports car that aims to deliver as raw a driving experience as is possible in the modern age.

To achieve this task Alfa Romeo took some bold decisions. The 4C has no power assisted steering as a start, aimed at giving the driver absolutely direct feedback from the front wheels. The cabin is spartan, laiden with switches and dials from the MiTo and Giulietta and the most basic of radios. The seats are lightweight buckets, swathed in alcantara and perfectly comfortable despite how thin they appear. The Spider’s roof is cloth and removed by hand, to be rolled up and placed in the boot. Manual air-conditioning is about as far as the luxury mod cons go, all in the pursuit of controlling weight.

Read also: Alfa Romeo Giulia: Is the Italian marque back with a bang?

Further to that point, the 4C has a carbon fibre tub making up majority of the ‘chassis’. The list of other vehicles where you’ll find that come from manufacturers like McLaren and Formula 1 teams. The benefit is that carbon fibre is exceptionally light and incredibly strong.

Power to weight is where it’s at

A view of the sky isn’t all that’s great about the 4C Spider. That open space above your head draws in the snaps and crackles of the 1750cc turbo four pot sat behind the cabin. It’s the same motor as you’d find in the Giulietta QV hatchback, only this time made from aluminium to shave off some kilograms. It still produces 177kW and 350 torques, which may not sound a lot but when you’re only karting some 940kg around that equates to a healthy power to weight ratio. How does 4.5 seconds from 0-100km/h sound?

 

Mighty quick, but the drive is even better

Power delivery is immense, once you’re above the turbo threshold. Alfa’s version of a dual clutch gearbox, called TCT works well at full poke changing in the blink of an eye. At low speeds it’s a bit more clunky though. In fact I’d argue that if the 4C has any downfalls, it’s the engine and gearbox combination. Technically a naturally aspirated motor mated with a manual gearbox would have been in better keeping with the driver involvement element but given just how quickly the 4C picks up pace – and the fact that it turns like a housefly – means 100% focus on steering, braking and throttle inputs isn’t a bad thing.

Read also: Alfa Romeo Giulia QV lands in SA

Feedback through the steering wheel is very apparent, to the extent that some would argue it’s over communicative. That merely comes from years and years of other cars numbing the senses, although admittedly the 4C does track road imperfections which can catch you out if you aren’t paying attention. Aside there isn’t a sportscar on sale today that will give you the thrills that a 4C can deliver through a series of sweeping, or tight bends. It’s a truly visceral experience that will engulf body and mind and keep you coming back for more.

A unique offering

A price tag of R1 340 000 for the 4C Spider seems a lot when you focus merely on what ‘competitors’ offer in terms of features and add ons. As I mentioned above, you won’t find a fancy touch screen with sat nav and the likes. You have what you need and no more. But if gadgets are your interest then the 4C isn’t for you in any event. The 4C is unique in its offering – where you get ‘supercar-like’ looks and technology in a package that delivers spades-full for the driving enthusiast.

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